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Zoo News
Jul 19, 2021

What do you do if your 760-pound male muskox refuses to do what you ask him? Well, if you’re a zookeeper, you have other strategies in your pocket. For keeper Piper, who cares for muskoxen, clouded leopards and an elephant at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, it’s all in a day’s work. 7am Piper’s day … Continued

Jul 19, 2021

Two things make zookeeper life in the Asian Forest Sanctuary quite different from anywhere else at Point Defiance Zoo: lots of meat, and lots of doors. And in a typical day at work, keeper Sam handles both of them with ease – not to mention tigers, tapirs and porcupines. 7:30am In summer, Sam and her … Continued

Jul 16, 2021

It’s hard to describe the awe when you stand at the Baja Bay window in Point Defiance Zoo’s Pacific Seas Aquarium and watch spotted eagle rays swoop through blue water overhead. But Tyler, one of the zoo’s aquarists, gets an even more immersive experience: waist-deep in their 80-degree water, feeling velvety noses as they munch … Continued

Jul 16, 2021

Keeper Stephanie’s day involves quite a lot of fish – and shrimp, and clam, and squid. When you care for ten marine mammals and four flocks of seabirds in nine different pools, you do a lot of feeding – and cleaning too. But for keepers like Stephanie at Point Defiance Zoo’s Rocky Shores habitat, creativity … Continued

Jul 16, 2021

There are a lot of moving parts to being a zookeeper in the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium – but training ambassador animals is a big one, says keeper Jessie. 7:30am A zookeeper’s day often begins with checking on animals, cleaning habitats and giving breakfast. The big difference at Wild … Continued

Jul 16, 2021

Summer sunlight dapples through Douglas firs. The air hums with insects, pierced by sharp raven calls. All else is quiet – and keeper Jamie climbs into the truck. Time to check up on 47 red wolves. 7:30am Most zookeepers don’t work all alone in a forest. Jamie, however, is a staff biologist for Point Defiance … Continued

Jul 13, 2021

Chef. Dietitian. Physical therapist. Hydrotherapist. Public speaker, cleaner, cricket-handler. When keeper Monica signed up to become a zookeeper, she knew it wouldn’t ever get boring – but caring for animals in Point Defiance Zoo’s Kids’ Zone took it to another level. 7:30am Kids’ Zone keeper days always start with a team meeting in the goat … Continued

Jun 11, 2021

“No pennies in Penguin Point, please!” That’s the message from keepers and veterinary staff at Point Defiance Zoo, after Luna the penguin ingested a penny and became ill. In late May, keepers noticed Luna couldn’t keep her food down. After a call to the Zoo’s veterinarians, x-rays were taken and the results showed two coins, … Continued

Jun 11, 2021

Both staff biologists and the veterinary staff at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium have brought a rare penguin chick back to good health, just days after it was suffering from what appeared to be dehydration. The tiny Magellanic penguin chick, hatched two weeks ago, was found lethargic in its exhibit with its parents in early … Continued

Apr 20, 2021

If Dr. Karen Wolf needs another skilled set of hands for a walrus procedure, she knows who to call. And if Dr. Allison Case has a beaver or owl that needs attention while she’s out of town, she has a second clinic just a van-trip away. The two women are head veterinarians of Point Defiance … Continued

Mar 17, 2021

Specialists at Oregon State University’s veterinary hospital operated Tuesday on a rare red wolf from the breeding program at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Washington. Chester, who was born at the Tacoma, Wash. zoo nearly two years ago, is one of only about 260 red wolves remaining in the world. The procedure went smoothly … Continued

Feb 16, 2021

Dr. Karen Wolf, left, and Dr. Caitlin Hadfield prepare Sekiu for surgery. NOTE: Graphic visual content further down the post. On a cold winter’s morning at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Animal Health Care, head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf did an unusual thing during surgery: She put a fresh ice pack on her patient’s chest. … Continued

Oct 22, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease is no fun. Diarrhea, vomiting, unpleasant gut sensations, even pain or fever. But if you’re an American red wolf, there are worse implications: That inflammation in your intestines might cause you to lose weight, get stressed and maybe even fail to reproduce. For an endangered species with less than 300 like you … Continued

Oct 13, 2020

It’s National Veterinary Technician Week Oct. 11-17, and we’re celebrating our wonderful veterinary technicians with a virtual thank-you card. Keepers, curators and veterinarians all weighed in to thank our superhero vet techs Julie Lemon and Sara Dunleavy for all they do to care for animals and help staff: prepping for procedures, monitoring animal vitals and … Continued

Sep 21, 2020

Aquarist John Foster cradled the vermilion rockfish gently in two hands, submersed. Anesthetized, it lay still as veterinarian Dr. Kadie Anderson took a quick documentary photo of its eyes, which bulged to each side. Then Foster lowered the fish – now fully awake – into a water-filled container that looked something like sci-fi author Jules … Continued

Sep 21, 2020

Shannon Smith stands outside on a fall day, calling out encouragement. “Foot!” she requests. Across the yard, her “buddy” of 24 years slowly lifts a leg, then puts it back down. “Good!” exclaims Smith, and offers an apple slice. It’s exercise time at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Smith is leading Suki the elderly … Continued

Sep 16, 2020

How does it feel to be the oldest siamang? Well, for Cho Cho, snuggled up with his companion Dudlee on a crisp fall morning at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, it seemed pretty cozy. This year Cho Cho is celebrating his 53rd birthday – which makes him the oldest siamang on record in human care … Continued

Sep 01, 2020

TACOMA, Wash. – Boris, an elderly polar bear believed to be the oldest male of his species on the planet, was humanely euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on Sept. 1 following a significant decline in his health. He was 34, a one-time circus bear who found a stable home in Tacoma, where he … Continued

Aug 19, 2020

Pakak the walrus has been busy visiting with the dentist. He was recently fitted for a new tusk crown. Walruses in zoos receive regular veterinary care, including dentist checkups. Walrus tusks don’t have a hard outer enamel layer like human teeth. So the tips of many walrus tusks have metal crowns placed on them to … Continued

Jun 17, 2020

UPDATE June 29: The chicks have moved behind-the-scenes to learn how to swim. Read the story for more! There are the chill kind of parents, who just relax and enjoy their little one. Then there are the intense kind of parents, super-protective and alert. At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we’ve got one pair of … Continued

Apr 03, 2020

We may be closed due to recent restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), but our keepers and veterinary team are still at the zoo every day caring for our animals. From enrichments to treats, check-ups to scratch-downs, here’s how we’re #closedbutstillcaring. Click on any image to start the slideshow. Mouse over to see … Continued

Mar 30, 2020

NOTE: This exam took place before recent social distancing recommendations were mandated. “Everyone ready?” Seven heads nodded, seven pairs of feet braced in neoprene boots, and four pairs of thickly-gloved hands readied a wide, webbed stretcher. The aquarist team had gathered in the South Pacific Aquarium isolation pool at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, with … Continued

Mar 12, 2020

“There’s a dentist for that?!” That might be the first reaction for many when they hear Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s sea otter Libby took a trip to the dentist’s office (AKA the healthcare center at the zoo). Dr. Kevin Stepaniuk, FAVD, DAVDC owns Veterinary Dentistry Education and Consulting Services and Veterinary Intraoral Radiology Reading … Continued

Feb 21, 2020

On the visitor side, the jellyfish gallery in the Pacific Seas Aquarium is a serene blue world of floating, pulsing forms. From eggcup to dinner-plate size, they hover in a kind of translucent eternity. Behind a nearby door, however, is another world; a world of bubbling tanks, petri dishes and complicated piping. This is the … Continued

Feb 20, 2020

It was about as far away visually as you could get from a cute clouded leopard cub. Scientifically, though, it was the first step of the journey. As veterinary and keeper staff from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium watched closely, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) angled a laparoscopic camera inside … Continued

Feb 06, 2020

Caring for the World’s Oldest Male Polar Bear  As Boris splashed in the pool, it was as if age didn’t matter. Paw-slamming a brown ball, pushing around a blue trash can and play-wrestling with his younger buddy Blizzard, the 34-year-old polar bear swam and flipped like a youngster. Then he hauled himself out, shook out … Continued

Jan 30, 2020

A new Atlantic green sea turtle, named Bruno, recently arrived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. He’s about 23-years-old and came to Tacoma from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Nebraska. On Tuesday, Bruno received a routine check-up with the Zoo’s veterinary staff. Bruno, like all animals new to the Zoo, must get a … Continued

Jan 28, 2020

It may have looked like a penguin foot spa – but it was so much more. On a cold winter morning, Purple the penguin lay back comfortably asleep in a cozy clinic room with each foot resting in a little tub of liquid. But this wasn’t just a foot soak. The little bird was about … Continued

Dec 16, 2019

Inspired to give your own pet an enriching treat these holidays? “Enrichments are a big part of caring for an animal,” explains Sara Mattison, staff biologist at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater and chair of the Enrichment Committee at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “They give mental and physical stimulation, and encourage natural behaviors that … Continued

Dec 12, 2019

’Twas the month before Christmas and inside Kids’ Zone, The meerkats received a surprise of their own; A stocking was hung on the rock wall with care, But the one on the ground was a different affair! The keepers had filled it with fat mealworm treats – (a favorite food for all meerkats to eat) … Continued